Our PA Day Nature Connection program in the Lanark Highlands with Mandy Helmes and Cassie Lolo and myself was a full day of Knowledge Circle Sharing in gratitude for Mullein Medicine. We foraged Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) with an intention of foraging only what is needed and to honour this biennial's medicinal properties and therapeutic gifts for us two-leggeds. WE started our day with an opening Knowlege sharing circle to discuss what each individuals intentions were for the day on the land as we initiated each own's personal story of the day...
Mandy Helme was at the helm once again to lead a nature connection walk to explore the teachings for the day which included sharing medicinal knowledge of plants: Mullein, Clover, Calendula and Cleavers. She steeped this herbal mix over fire creating a delicious tea that is known to treat respiratory ailments. Mandy also lead discussions about differences between teas, infusions and tinctures while Cassie Lolo was cooking up a warm apple and cinnamon dish over fire as she role modeled an appreciation for the preparation process of slow food for mid afternoon snack. Cassie also lead an art inspired activity in the Ceder grove with clipboards and art supplies in hand.
We returned to conjure up a conconction of a combination of warm herbal tea and apples for the children to nourish themselves when learning about medicine that may be found in our own back yard... All this was happening around our firescape as our grade 7 assistant Elouise visited each individual in the circle to experiment with Tuning Forks on the crown of each participant which they openly received with a calming and content nature... so much to be grateful for!
We discussed the concept of The Doctrine of Signatures: The doctrine of signatures, dating from the time of Dioscorides and Galen, states that herbs resembling various parts of the body and can be used by herbalists to treat ailments of those body parts. The doctrine of signatures is the age-old belief that plants resemble the very body parts they are intended to treat. In the case it is researched that Mullein’s cough-curing ability and the large, fuzzy leaves suggest an affinity to the lungs.
Seasonal Halloween themes inspired a seek and find for Witches Brooms in the cedar grove and Hag's Taper (aka: Common Mullein) in the pastures. We thought to try to make a torch out of Mullein by dipping it in tallow and then igniting it. We told old Irish lore and tales of days of yore about witches being the poor wise women and the healers of the community in olden days. The folk names for mullein have halloweeny associations: “Candlewick plant” refers to the old practice of using the dried down of mullein leaves and stems to make lamp wicks. Some say mullein stems once were dipped in tallow to make torches either used by witches or used to repel them, hence the name “hag taper.”
We had fun seeking and finding Witch's broom in the cedar grove- a witches broom is a deformity in a woody plant, typically a tree, where the natural structure of the plant is changed. A dense mass of shoots grows from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird's nest.
More ideas surrounding witches and cauldrons inspired the use of old-world names of plants such as eye of a newt (mustard seed), bat's wings (holly), bat's wool (moss), toe of a frog (buttercup leaves)....Thanks to Shakespeare, no doubt some country folk in the Middle Ages thought these names were literal.
Cassie Lolo led Art in the Woods with clip boards in hand brought our keen little artisans together in artistic freedom. While others were reviewing the medicinal elements of Mullein. Eloise (grade 7) is planning to create a medicine recipe book.
Closing Knowledge Sharing Circle in the woods confirmed that we needed more time to play, explore, learn, fort building and fun!
Thank you to Mandy Helmes and and Cassie Lolo for your presence in knowledge sharing!
Laurie Lynn Clark
What a fabulous day learning together on the land with the children!!